Link to Joe Stirling on You Tube

The summer season is  ahead and normally our presentations and public speaking events would be drying up.  Not this year!  18 months after the publication of my debut biography Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future (Pen and Sword Books 2016 & Skyhorse Publications New York, 2017), our diary has a further six engagements to September, four in the autumn and three in 2018!  This is mainly because Joe is so compelling when at, nearly 93, he tells his own story to audiences all over Norfolk.  For those who have not yet seen this film, do take a look and you will see what I mean!  For details of how to buy your signed copy direct from the author, do look at the menu section of this blog.

 

Escaping Hitler Book signing at Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

I am delighted to have been invited to sign copies of my book Escaping Hitler at the historic Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich on Saturday 19th May on the opening weekend of ‘Kindertransport’ a play by Diane Samuels. Recently Joe Stirling, the subject of this biography of a Kindertransport boy whose destiny was to become Sheriff of Norwich, visited rehearsals and spoke with the cast about this childhood experiences in Nazi Germany.

Signed copies of the book will be available throughout the run (19 – 27 May), although as I am currently completing my next book, I will not be able to attend the theatre every night.  If you live near Norwich and would like to see the play, take a look at the Maddermarket website at maddermarket.co.uk.

Kindertransport by Diane Samuels, Directed by Tony Fullwood

As the clouds of war gather in 1930’s Germany, a desperate mother forces her nine year old daughter onto a train, sending her out of danger and into the arms of strangers.
In peaceful, suburban, 1980’s England, a proud mother prepares to say farewell to her grown-up daughter, as she cuts the ties of childhood to leave the family home.
Then a chance discovery opens an unhealed wound.

I look forward to meeting the cast and the audiences.  Joe’s experiences should certainly complement the text of the play.  This photo shows Joe with the cast. Thanks to the Theatre Manager Rebecca for arranging the book signing.  I am looking forward to it!

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75th Anniversary of the Jewish Deportation from Koblenz & chance encounter with the past

Today, 22nd March 2017, is the 75th Anniversary of the deportation of over 300 Jewish people by the Nazis, from the Rhineland city of Koblenz, to their ultimate murders in the death camps in Poland.

Travelling on those trains were the parents of Joe Stirling, subject of my biography Escaping Hitler. Their names were Alfred and Ida Stern and I remember them today.  

But I have an amazing co-incidence to share with you.  In February this year Joe Stirling and I gave an illustrated lunchtime talk at the Norfolk Record Office, a wonderful venue for historians, genealogists and researchers. Amongst our audience was a young couple from Dereham in Norfolk.  They told us before the talk that they were there because Ilan’s family had Koblenz war-time connections.  I began the talk, and quite unusually included a slide of the Balduinbrücke, the main bridge across the Mosel in Koblenz.   After we had completed our usual book signing, Ilan and his wife Anne approached our table and Ilan spoke directly to Joe.

He said that he was an Israeli Jew, Ilan Schönewald, whose family had originated in Koblenz.  He had reason to believe, from listening to my talk and matching the details with those from his family folklore, that his great-grandmother BERTA SCHÖNEWALD, may be been on that same deportation train on 22nd March 1942, heading to her death in Sobibor death camp.  It was if the past had reached out to cling to the present, bringing both Ilan and Joe together for a brief moment in honour of their close family members who had shared their last days in the most gruesome of circumstances.  We exchanged numbers, Anne promising to email me photos of Berta.  Once home, I double checked my research material, like a conscientious biographer (!) and found in a German newspaper report from 1992, the 60th anniversary of the deportation, the list that contained the names of Joe’s parents and step-grandmother Sabine.  Sure enough, Berta’s name was also on the list.  They had been together over that dreadful period, most probably both thinking of their children (Berta of her daughter escaped to England and Alfred and Ida of their son Günter (Joe) also safely in England).

It is co-incidences and remarkable encounters like these that make biography such a fascinating and rewarding genre.  RIP Alfred, Ida, Sabine and Berta.

New Presentation to Cottessey Probus Club Spring Ladies’ Luncheon

My thanks to The Vale Probus Club in Norwich for inviting me to speak at their Spring Ladies’ Lunch at the stunning Cottessey Park Golf Club today. I had a lovely time, showing them a brand new slide show on The Women Who Shaped a Life, celebrating Joe Stirling’s mother Ida Stern, his Birmingham guardian Freda Free, landlady Doris Allsopp in Lydney, Mrs Rattray his long-long-suffering teacher of English at Yardley Grammar School, and particularly Jean Skitmore, his oh so supportive wife and mother to his four children. Seemed to go down well. Lovely meal, then the talk, then some book signings. Home now to get back to writing my next book….

 

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Escaping Hitler Talk success at Norfolk Record Office

On Wednesday 8th February, I was honoured to give a talk at the iconic Norfolk Record Office where so much wonderful research material, stretching from far off medieval times, is stored.  I have spent many happy hours pouring over documents and photographs AND NOW I was here as a guest lunchtime speaker.  About fifty people turned up to see my brand new slide show, outlining the remarkable life of Kindertransport refugee Joe Stirling, whose destiny was to become  Sheriff of Norwich (and so much more!) The audience were attentive and respectful as I described my research journey, including ‘footstepping’ his parents’ final forced walk through Koblenz in March 1942, on their way to Poland and their deaths at Sobibor death camp.  Happier photos followed and the audience were delighted when Joe stood to join me for a question and answer session.  He answered four or five questions in his usual eloquent style.  And then we signed books!  Very very pleased and our thanks go to Karen Gaffney and her team at NRO who organised the event.  And for all the tweets they were sending out!

Twelve months since Escaping Hitler launched in Jarrold Department Store in Norwich

Cannot believe it is exactly 12 months today since our Grand Launch in Jarrold.  It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life when I came into the room to be greeted by 220 relatives, friends and members of the public.  And then to see Joe Stirling at the front, just as I had always imagined it might be.  The two of us at our launch book signing!  And since then it has gone from strength to strength, the first print run of 1,300 books  by Pen and Sword Books selling out before Christmas, a  reprint, a visit to Germany to give two talks and sell books, over 40 public speaking engagements, most of them with Joe, and now in January this year the book has been published and launched in the U.S. by Skyhorse Publications of New York.  Loads of coverage and reviews in the press and in magazines such as the Association of Jewish Refugees and Lions Clubs International, nearly 500 followers on Facebook.  Wonderful progress –  and all the while researching for my second book!  Just wanted to share my joy with you.

Joe Stirling takes ‘Escaping Hitler’ to his daughter’s old school

Yesterday, 1st February Joe Stirling and I gave a presentation about Escaping Hitler to students and staff at @NorwichHigh (Norwich High School for Girls).  We were part of the excellent Lunch and Learn scheme where anyone is welcome to join a speaker at lunchtime in the library space and enjoy a buffet lunch while listening….  everyone was so welcoming.  The students were mesmerised as ever by Joe telling his personal story of life as a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany.  Our visit was timed to be as near as possible to Holocaust Memorial Day and we ended our slide show with a tribute to Joe’s parents, Alfred and Ida,who were murdered in Sobibor in 1942.

 Also poignant was that Jane, Joe’s eldest child, won a scholarship to Norwich High School back in the late 1950s.  This is the main reason the family moved to the Unthank Road. Joe and his wife Jean would have visited the school many times for parents evenings, concerts, sports days, bazaars and the like! The story is documented in Escaping Hitler and it is wonderful to think that my book will remain their stunning new Library for the girls to read for years to come.

Our thanks to Mr Emerson-Moering for inviting us to speak.   Photos courtesy of Emily Marchant, Communications Officer.